Top Bar Menu

Hiking in Patagonia – Torres del Paine Part 1

Torres del Paine

Torres del Paine from behind the Towers

Patagonia travel triggers visions and feelings of extreme adventure for trekkers around the world.  You’ve seen the pictures on-line and you’ve heard stories about the unpredictable weather, vast glaciers, snow capped Andes mountains and the dramatic reward of hiking in Patagonia.  Are you ready to hike one of the most renowned treks in the world?  Torres del Paine National Park will satisfy that adventure craving.  We share our experience hiking in Patagonia through the Torres del Paine circuit in southern Chile.

A Guide for Hiking in Patagonia

This is a lot of useful information for hiking Torres del Paine, so we have broken up the guide into a series of posts. Be sure to check them all out.

When to Go

In Patagonia, the weather is extremely unpredictable and for most of the year unbearable to hike due to high winds, below freezing temperatures and ice.  The park remains open all year, but unless you are an experienced adventurer with ice hiking skills, you will most likely want to hike in the Summer (Nov-Mar).

Torres del Paine

High winds blow Aracely's jacket over her head while hiking Torres del Paine

Summer (Nov-Mar) is the peak season for trekking in Torres del Paine National Park, which creates over crowded campsites and trails. It’s warmest in the Summer, averaging 11ºC/ 52ºF, but the Patagonia weather still remains unpredictable with possibilities of rain, snow and high winds, which can disrupt your most anticipated trip to Torres del Paine. Low hanging clouds around the towers and dense fog can also hide the great Patagonia views of amazing landscapes and the three towers.

We arrived to Torres del Paine in mid-March when the crowds had dissipated and the weather is supposedly most stable. I admit, we got very lucky with the weather. Our trek began with 2 days of cold rain and below freezing nights. As the days progressed, the weather improved with sunny warm days and clear skies. As we descended the towers at the end of our 9-day full circuit trek, the clouds moved in, the winds picked up and the rain began. We highly encourage that you pick the time of year carefully.

Torres del Paine

Torres del Paine Towers at Sunrise

What To Bring

Since we were traveling for a full year when we planned our Patagonia hike, we didn’t have tents, sleeping bags or a camping stove.  We rented all of our equipment from Glacier de la Patagonia in Puerto Natales. They have good quality equipment all from the same manufacturer, Doite. If you are flying down to Patagonia specifically for hiking, bring your own gear from home. The quality of your gear will most likely be better and you will be saving money. Make sure your tent can withstand Patagonia winds and rain.

Torres del Paine

Hiking over the John Garner Pass on the backside of the full circuit

Sleeping bag

This is Patagonia, it is cold. We opted for the -10 degree Celsius by Doite and we still felt cold on a few nights.

Sleeping Pad

The ground is hard and cold, don’t skimp on the sleeping pad. The ones we rented weren’t very thick. Consider renting 2 if they appear thin and worn.

Tent

We rented a Himalaya Doite Tent which was the smaller one of the two that Glacier de la Patagonia offered.  Another afterthought, we should have opted for the larger tent for more comfort and little additional weight.

Torres del Paine

Warming food in the rain by our Doite tent in Torres del Paine

Cooking Stove and Pots

Keep it light. One pot and one spoon is enough for 1 person. Be sure to have a multipurpose knife. You can’t fly with the fuel needed to light your stove, but there are many places here to buy them.

Torres del Paine

Making Tea while Hiking Torres del Paine in Patagonia

Food

This was our biggest mistake. We didn’t bring enough and therefore had to buy some along the way which was very expensive. Even with end of season discounts, the food prices were jacked up.

Torres del Paine

Water is available from streams in Torres del Paine National Park

Several of the campsites have items to sell such as camping food, snacks, wine and beer. You will be hiking 6-8 hours daily and our bodies require fuel. Identify ways to keep the food weight to a minimum, but make sure you’re getting enough calories and replenishing your energy sources. You can drink water from small streams that cascade down the mountains.

Torres del Paine

The Best Lunch Picnic in Torres del Paine Patagonia

Clothing

Dress warm and avoid the cotton underwear and shirt. You will be sweating a lot and with few showers those cottons clothes will quickly stink. It will be freezing at night and either freezing during the day, or sunny and clear skies. Just focus on layers instead of big thick jackets that take up too much room. Layers are always recommended for easy taking off and putting on of clothes. Boots are absolutely necessary. We hiked on rocks, through mud and in snow at times. Pack a wind and rain breaker and hats and gloves.

Torres del Paine

Hiking Torres del Paine National Park in Chile

Other Gear

Walking sticks are optional, but we decided to rent them. I felt as though it was a good decision, but they aren’t absolutely necessary. Bring head lamps or torches, and rope for hanging wet clothes and food in the woods. If you don’t hang your food or secure it incredibly well, mice will get into it. Also bring sunglasses, sunscreen, a map of the park and toilet paper! In the winter the gear completely changes and I am not an expert in in extreme conditions, sorry.

Torres del Paine

Reading the Maps for Torres del Paine Patagonia

How to Get There

You can fly there, bus it or take the adventurous Navimag vessel through southern Chile’s islands.

Torres del Paine

The office at the entrance to Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia

You can access Torres del Paine National Park from the gateway town of Puerto Natales. Puerto Natales provides hostels, hotels, restaurants, shopping and anything else you might need for your trek. If you plan to go during high season, be sure to book your hostel ahead of time.

Flights arrive to Punta Arenas, usually with a stopover in Puerto Montt, which lies on the Straights of Magellan. From Punta Arenas you will bus it 3 hours north to Puerto Natales.

You can bus it from Santiago, Chile, but it’s a very long 3100 km trip. If you are visiting Puerto Montt you can also fly to Punta Arenas or bus it to Puerto Natales.

In order to arrive at the entrance of Torres del Paine, catch a bus early in the morning from Puerto Natales. It’s 115 kilometers away and gates open at 8:30am

More Torres del Paine Hiking information to come!

, , , , , ,

Tee says:

Hi, I am wondering how tough the W hike is (or others) for an average active person…also, when doing it yourself with all your own gear is it still pretty expensive…

If you have your own gear it is less expensive, because you won’t be renting it of course. You still have to pay at every campsite you use, and you have to use a designated campsite. The campsite fees range from free (few amenities) to $15USD per night per person (not tent). There is also a park entrance fee of ~$30USD. If you do the W expect to camp 4-5 nights. There are refugio lodges to sleep in, instead of camping, but they can be $50USD per night not including dinner. You must book the lodges well ahead of time during busy season, which is now.

The W hike is challenging. I think the average person can do it, as long as they are in decent shape, have proper footwear and have hiked elevations before. You must be able to hike 6 hour days in sometimes windy and frigid weather. It’s warmer during the high season (now), but the weather can change every hour. Sleeping in a tent at night and cooking dinner can also be a challenge in the cold weather. If you have never hiked long distance before, I would guess the W is going to make you uncomfortable. You can also consider a 2-day hike up to the towers, camping just below them on the first night and rising early the second day to watch the sunrise on the towers. Another spectacular view of Torres del Paine is Glacier Gray, which you can view while hiking the W or on many ferry tours that ride right up next to the glacier. There is something for everyone at Torres del Paine, regardless of your age and travel style. There is budget and lavish accommodation. There exists the toughest full circuit trek and there are relaxing horseback tours.

Florin Ghelmez says:

I am flying to Patagonia with my mom. We want to do the W and a little bit of the Los Glaciales.
Do I need to get a tent and sleeping bags? We did not book any rooms. All I did was to get the plane tickets.
Florin

You are visiting the W during peak season, which means it will be very crowded and you probably won’t be able to book any rooms along the trail. You can rent all your camping gear from in town. The campsites and trail will be crowded, but the hike is still beautiful. Just hope for the best weather. Weather can make or break a trip. Have a wonderful time! Also, try to book a room in town before you arrive, since it will be a challenge walking around town searching for an open room for the night. Check out hostels or hotels.

Paul Cleary says:

My girlfriend and I are going to hike the full circuit in January, I was wondering where you obtained all of the necessary info for getting from Punta Arena to Puerto Natales, and Puerto Natales into TDP.

This is a good site for infomation http://www.torresdelpaine.com/ingles/secciones/01/a/buscar.asp?IDOrigen=1 We flew from Santiago to Punta Arena and then took a bus to Puerto Natales. This is the common route. Every morning buses leave from Puerto Natales to Torres del Paine. You hotel / hostel or tour company will have all that information, but it’s pretty simple. You will see everyone in town getting picked up early in the morning. Enjoy the hike, it’s one of the most amazing in the world, highly dependent on weather.

Tovah says:

Looking through your pictures, trekking through Patagonia seems absolutely amazing and actually quite difficult! I am about to take a trip to Patagonia and although it won’t be as extreme I can only hope it is offers me a memorable experience as well. Maybe one day I will have enough guts to sleep in freezing weather, on rocky terrain with nothing but a pack on my back.

Until that day, thanks for the post. I almost feel more adventurous just reading it.

Thanks Tovah, I appreciate the comments. The one thing I really like about travel is that we can do it in many different ways, and that’s okay. Something for everyone.

Catia Proenca says:

Hi,
I am planing to visit Torres del Paine in December, this post really helps with lots of information and amazing pics.

I was just wondering one thing, do you have to book the camping sites in advance or we can just camp as we go? If the campsites are full, is it allowed to just mount your tent anywhere you want?

Thank you

Lee Shen Han says:

That’s ridiculously beautiful. I’ll actually be heading over around mid Oct and I’ve never done any serious trekking before so I’m just hoping to survive!

Jason says:

There are many options to reach the towers, one being a day hike only to the towers base and a hike down the same day. This would be the easiest. You can also, hike up in the evening, watch the sunset on the towers and camp overnight an hour down from the towers. Then, before sunrise, hike up to the towers to watch the greatest site of the sun rising with the red light gleaming off the towers. Now, the one risk is that you never know when the sun is going to be out. The weather is incredibly unpredictable.

Angela says:

Beautiful landscape, it really looks like an exhausting paradise on earth ;)

Jason says:

That’s a good way to put it.

Linda says:

Stunning photos. A friend of mine was there earlier this year, but her photos weren’t that good, now, however, I understand what she was raving about!

Jason says:

It’s one of the most beautiful places we have ever hiked. Up there with the Grand Canyon.

Josh Aggars says:

That shot of Torres del Paine Towers at Sunrise is beautiful Jason! A proper picture postcard moment. Stunning shots as ever.

Brock says:

Awesome photos! I’ve never been a fan of full on hike but this actually looks pretty fun.

Jason says:

It is definitely fun, but absolutely a challenge.

Castellani Media LLC.